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Comparing Lean, Six Sigma and BPM Methodologies

Striving for operational excellence and sustainable improvement, an increasing number of businesses are embracing business process improvement practices. However, with popular methodologies like Business Process Management (BPM), Lean, and Six Sigma, organisations often find it challenging to identify the most suitable approach for their process improvement projects.
While each of these methodologies provides similar results –streamlining processes, reducing waste, and enhancing overall efficiency—these disciplines are different from each other.

In this blog, we will explore the key characteristics and benefits of BPM, Lean, and Six Sigma, and offer valuable insights to help you navigate the selection process and identify the optimal process improvement methodology for your organisation. We also look at the potential of combined synergies.

Exploring Lean Methodology

Lean methodology is a powerful approach to process improvement that originated from the manufacturing industry and has since been adopted across various sectors. At its core, Lean aims to refine internal processes to give maximum value to customers.

The fundamental principles of Lean revolve around eliminating waste, enhancing efficiency, and delivering maximum value to customers. What sets the Lean philosophy apart from other disciplines is that it puts customer value at the centre. It encourages organisations to identify and eliminate activities that do not add value to the end product or service, thereby streamlining workflows and reducing unnecessary costs and delays.

Principles of Lean Methodology

Lean Methodology is based on five key principles that work together to create a system that delivers customer value, empowers employees and drives continuous improvement

Value Identification: Eliminating waste from workflows lays the foundation for Lean initiatives. It involves understanding what customers truly value in your product or service and removing anything that does not contribute value to the work process.

Mapping the Value Stream: Analysing the entire process flow, from raw materials to the final output, to identify areas of improvement.

Create Flow: Streamlining processes to achieve smooth and uninterrupted workflow.

Establish Pull: Aligning production with actual customer demand to avoid overproduction and excess inventory.

Continuous Improvement: Looking for opportunities for continuous improvement in projects.

Business Process Management (BPM) software comes in different deployment options to suit varying organisational needs and preferences. Two primary types of BPM software are on-premise and cloud-based solutions.

Understanding Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a powerful and data-driven methodology aimed at achieving process improvement and reducing defects in products and services. Rooted in statistical principles, Six Sigma focuses on identifying and eliminating variations that lead to defects or errors.

The core concepts of Six Sigma

Customer-Centricity: Placing the customer at the centre of the improvement process, ensuring that the end product or service meets their needs and expectations.

Data-Driven Approach: Relying on data and statistical analysis to measure, analyse, and improve processes, making decisions based on evidence rather than intuition.

DMAIC Methodology: Utilising the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) approach to systematically tackle process issues and drive continuous improvement.

Process Capability: Assessing the capability of processes to deliver products or services within customer specifications, striving to achieve a Six Sigma level where the number of defects is extremely low.

Understanding Business Process Management (BPM)

Business Process Management (BPM) is a systematic approach that empowers organisations to map, optimise, and continuously improve their business processes. It involves analysing the current state processes to identify improvement opportunities to increase process efficiency and effectiveness.BPM’s primary goal is to align processes with strategic objectives to drive organisational success.

5 stages of the BPM Lifecycle

Process Modeling: This phase includes the visual representation of business processes to provide a clear and structured overview of how tasks, activities, and information flow within the organisation.

Process Analysis: This phase involves analysing current processes to identify inefficiencies and areas for enhancement, providing data-driven insights to organisations to help them optimise their processes for better performance.

Process Improvement: In this phase, analysis of process information is used to identify and understand improvement opportunities in the processes, such as inefficiencies and bottlenecks, rework, duplicate efforts and non-value-adding activities. Processes are redesigned to eliminate these inefficiencies and shared across the stakeholders for review and approval.

Process Implementation: This phase is where identified improvements are implemented to get optimised and streamlined processes. Organisations start to see the results of their process management efforts.

Process Monitoring: This is a vital step in the BPM lifecycle. Setting and forgetting their processes is the biggest mistake that organisations make during process improvement. BPM is an ongoing project, and the monitoring phase ensures that processes are constantly evaluated to identify continual improvement opportunities.

Emerging BPM Trends

As organisations look to gain agility and flexibility to gain a competitive edge, BPM is emerging as a popular discipline. A recent study suggests that the BPM market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9% from 2023 to 2030.

With the rise in popularity and adoption of BPM, several BPM software have emerged in the market. BPM tools that provide a low-code, no-code environment are being preferred by organisations. These software simplify process management, allowing individuals associated with a process to execute tasks without requiring specialised expertise. Similarly, cloud-based BPM software are emerging as the preferred choice for modern organisations as they are cost-effective and help organisations avoid the hassle of infrastructure requirements.

BPM vs Lean vs Six Sigma: Comparing the Approaches

Clearly, while BPM, Lean, and Six Sigma are all aimed at process improvement, they differ in their approaches and key features. Here’s a quick look at these distinct approaches.

Business Process Management (BPM):

  • Focuses on managing and optimising end-to-end business processes.
  • Emphasises collaboration and communication among stakeholders.
  • Aims for continuous process improvement.

Lean Methodology 

  • Concentrates on the elimination of waste and maximising customer value.
  • Targets inefficiencies and non-value-adding activities in processes.
  • Promotes a pull system for work and smooth flow to reduce cycle time.

Six Sigma 

  • Aims to achieve process excellence and minimise defects.
  • Relies on data-driven decision-making and statistical analysis.
  • Utilises the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) process for improvement.
  • Focuses on reducing process variations and improving quality.

Selecting the Best-Fit Methodology

Many organisations struggle with this question: ‘BPM vs Lean vs Six Sigma, which is the best fit for my business?’ The answer to choosing the best methodology for your organisation lies in understanding your business goals and objectives and then aligning them with the strengths of the methodology.

For instance, if reducing defects is your primary goal, then Six Sigma emerges as the best-suited option. For organisations aiming to achieve Continuous Improvement, knowledge management and building a centralised process repository, Business Process Management emerges as the right option. Similarly, if reducing the lead time and eliminating waste is the main goal of the organisation, then Lean Methodology aligns well with these objectives.

Tapping into the Combined Potential

To derive the best results, however, one should not consider either or but look at combining the potential of the three methodologies. When organisations combine Lean, Six Sigma, and BPM, they benefit from the synergies created by each methodology’s strengths. For example, Lean helps identify waste, which can then be further analysed using Six Sigma’s data-driven methods to uncover root causes. BPM, with its process visibility and management capabilities, provides a solid foundation for both Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.

Integrating Lean, Six Sigma, and BPM allows organisations to tap into the collective strengths of each methodology and achieve remarkable results. By strategically utilising these frameworks, businesses can maximise their process improvement results.

Benefits of Integrating Lean, Six Sigma and BPM

Lean Six Sigma and BPM are complementary disciplines, and combining them results in significant advantages. Below are the benefits organisations can achieve with this integration.

Comprehensive Process Improvement: By combining Lean, BPM, and Six Sigma methodologies, organisations can address process inefficiencies from multiple angles. Lean helps identify and eliminate waste, BPM optimises and manages processes, and Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variations. This comprehensive approach leads to more effective and sustainable process improvements.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Six Sigma’s emphasis on data and statistical analysis, when integrated with BPM, provides a robust foundation for data-driven decision-making. Organisations can use data insights to identify areas of improvement, set performance benchmarks, and continuously monitor process performance.

Streamlined and Optimised Processes: Lean’s core principle of waste elimination, combined with Six Sigma’s focus on reducing defects, leads to significant waste reduction across processes. Organisations benefit from greatly streamlined and optimised processes due to the removal of unnecessary steps, minimised rework, and optimised resource utilisation.

Standardisation and Consistency: BPM emphasises process standardisation and documentation, while Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variations. Integrating these methodologies ensures that processes are standardised, consistent, and capable of delivering predictable outcomes.

Enhanced Risk Mitigation: Six Sigma’s emphasis on error reduction and process control, when combined with BPM’s visibility and transparency, helps organisations identify and mitigate risks in their processes. This proactive approach can help organisations minimise the likelihood of errors and operational disruptions.

Sustainable Results: The integration of Lean, BPM, and Six Sigma creates a holistic and sustainable approach to process improvement. The methodologies complement each other, leading to continuous improvement that helps organisations keep pace with the dynamic business environment.

Unlock the Lean, Six Sigma and BPM synergy with PRIME BPM

A powerful cloud-based software, PRIME BPM comes integrated with BPM, Lean, Six Sigma and Value Stream Mapping Methodologies to drive your end-to-end improvement. The software combines the best-of-breed inbuilt methodology and user-friendly interface to meet the requirements of both process experts and business users.

PRIME BPM also comes with best-in-class features, including BPMN 2.0 for standardised process documentation; one-click analysis on process efficiency, value time and cost; process approval, and many more to help you get the best results from your investment.

Wish to explore how these functionalities can deliver for your organisation? Get a 30-day Trial.